Easy A: Film Review

Easy A (2010) - IMDb

Easy A is a romantic comedy about a straight-shooting high school girl who becomes the subject of a wave of gossip and rumour, a wave she does little to quell, which changes her social position in the school forever. The film stars Emma Stone, as well as Stanley Tucci, Dan Byrd, Lisa Kudrow, and Penn Badgley among others.  The film, which is many ways a modern rendition of The Scarlet Letter (referenced extensively in the film), follows Olive, as an acute giving-streak leads to the destruction of her reputation despite having done nothing at all. Easy A was directed by Will Gluck and written by Bert V. Royal.

This film was a very pleasant surprise. I went into it expecting something decent, its reputation would suggest at least as much.  I was in no way expecting one of the best-written rom-coms since When Harry Met Sally, which combined deceptively hilarious dialogue with very sudden yet shockingly appropriate tonal switches, making the few moments of sobriety about this film count for much more than their minutes. That’s a very steep task, and one that this genre tends not to do all that well, but Easy A makes sport out of injecting moments of sincerity smack in the middle of its comedy riffs, and it does it in a way that feels completely organic, which is a serious feat. It’s also absolutely hilarious, to a degree that, once again, I don’t think I expected.

Emma Stone is great in a performance that earned her a Golden Globe nod. In fact, in a rare criticism of the writing, Olive’s goodness in the context of this story probably wouldn’t have shown enough without Stone and the sincerity she brought to the character, in that evidence was a little lacking solely on paper. But the acting quality didn’t stop there; most every role in the film was filled by an actor who brought charm to their relatively smaller inclusions. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are just delightful as Olive’s parents, an absolutely irresistible. The same is true of Thomas Haden Church, and is unmatched in Penn Badgley’s character, who barely exists on paper. Given that, one has to acknowledge the writing is extremely imperfect, and probably sacrificed character work for good comedy, but the effect of that is covered up by supplementary support from a really strong cast.

There is some amount of incredulity I held about some plot points. Olive’s guilt about “breaking” the marriage of her favourite teacher is a little strange, when she called herself a homewrecker I figured his wife was going to suspect that he’d slept with her. The way it actually happened, I have a hard time understanding why she assigned herself any more than a very small amount of guilt at all. I also think some of her decision making as a character was hard to believe and/or hard to get behind. It’s one thing to be an unflinchingly giving person, what she did was another thing entirely. Characters exacerbating their own situations isn’t a rare occurrence, you can’t expect characters to act rationally at all times, but the way in which it seemed to get out of hand was a bit much and felt out of character at certain points.

In spite of that, it does a pretty bang-up job addressing the social issues it was targeted at. A more accurate and on-the-nose representation of the elaborate game of Chinese Whispers that is high school gossip you won’t see, as well as a slightly subtler nod to the double standard of slut-shaming. It never gets to the point where it feels preachy, it’s never put in as many words, but the effect is there and it works pretty well. It’s one of those instances where one of the main ideas of the film is the driving force of the plot, but still isn’t shoved in your face along with the moral of the story as a line of dialogue.

All in all, Easy A was just an inescapably enjoyable film, and a refreshing re-evaluation of the romantic comedy genre for me. I’d emphasize once more how funny and well written it is in parts, and, where it isn’t, it’s supplemented by a cast that performs the hell out of it. It surprises me that Bert V. Royal hasn’t really done work on a proper feature film since this one. His IMDb says he’s got a couple things in pre-production and filming respectively, the details of which are scarce, so hopefully we’ll see something of his on the big screen once more. In the meantime, I’d recommend Easy A for a really good time and some even better laughs.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 74/100                                                                Aryamaan’s Score –

Hasmukh: Series Review

Hasmukh Season 1 - Netflix Web Series Complete Download With Subtitle

Yes! Vir Das is back on Netflix with ‘Hasmukh’ after his incredible special, ‘For India.’ With the increasing trend of the dark-comedy genre like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Stree,’ ‘Hasmukh’ too attempts to cement its place in this genre with an absolutely brilliant plot idea (delightful and diabolical to be precise): Hasmukh (Vir Das), a struggling stand-up comedian is desperate to kick-start his career and in an unexpected turn of events, his career starts with a murder. But what’s even worse, he discovers that he only gets the ‘feel’ of performing after murdering someone! Once he has tasted blood and experienced the high of success, there’s nothing stopping him and his newfound addiction. Armed with this new-found craving, Hasmukh becomes a youtube sensation and finds his way into a comedy show in Mumbai as a wild card entry. The protagonist, who we grow to love, is also a serial killer.

The first episode, for me, was one of the best: a great introduction to the characters, the setting and situation befalls our protagonist. The show dives right into the plot without wasting much time, hooking the audience in the first few scenes, before the intro music starts (played almost halfway into the episode). But the show starts to fall a bit from there. Shows that revolve around stand-up comedy are supposed to have great comic material and especially with Vir Das being one of the writers along with Neeraj Pandey, Suparn Verma, Amogh Ranadive, Nikhil Advani and director Nikhil Gonsalves the expectations were really high. But unfortunately the writing doesn’t meet those expectations – quite a letdown to be honest. There are some hidden gems, though, like the satire about lawyers in Mumbai and of course the next show with the satire about Indian women but the reactions of the audience, the judge and the other characters slightly overdo it; they break the flow of the delivery and reduce the impact of the delivery.

A huge positive about the show though is the smart plotting and pacing of each episode. Each episode adds new twist to the story, which constantly increases the excitement and suspense, making the show quite easy to watch.  Each episode ends with a cliffhanger, a new source of suspense to cling onto. The thought, “will his past ever catch up to him?” keeps reminding the audience of the uncertainty of his fate, injecting a sense of edginess to the show, which glues the audience to their seats, waiting for the next episode.

With his incredible talent and diversity, India’s leading English-language stand-up comedian, Vir Das, makes a smooth transition to Hindi with ease. He is without doubt the standout factor of the show. Though used to doing stand-up in English, his delivery while doing stand-up in Hindi is very effective, though not the best written in this case, and especially with that slight UP accent that he adopts. He’s acted well and is very convincing as his character; even in the emotional scenes while speaking to Sasha in episode 6 – brilliant. Ranvir Shorey (playing Jimmy ‘the maker,’ Hasmukh’s manager) complements Hasmukh’s character exceptionally with his gold grill and his signature newsboy cap. Their teamwork and brilliant chemistry is what holds this show together and provides majority of the positive moments of the show. Ravi Kishan (as the owner of the channel), Manoj Pahwa (as Gulati), Amrita Bagchi (as Promila) and Deeksha Sonalkar (as Rhea) do justice to their characters. Suhail Nayyar also does a good job as Krushna Kumar (Hasmukh’s rival), with effective delivery during his stand-up. The competition between K.K. and Hasmukh at the end of the competition provides some of the best scenes of the show. One of my favourites (apart from Shorey and Das), however, was definitely Inaamulhaq as the police officer. His tagline is great and he delivers it brilliantly every time.  The performances help emphasize on each character’s convincing backstories – another major positive for the show.

Director Nikhil Gonsalves has adeptly handled the material he was given and has done well with the screenplay, which may not have been the best. There were some scenes, which weren’t as well thought out I guess: Hasmukh chokes a character in the car, the car is seen taking turns on the road but somehow it always seems to stay on the road despite the driver being choked. Nikhil definitely focuses more on the dark-thriller scenes than the comedic but still manages to deliver a binge-worthy but a one-time watch limited show.

All in all, Hasmukh does have a lot of potential with its performances, plotting, pacing and emphasis on its characters backstories but some of its comedic material and certain over-the-top scenes drag it down. It is definitely a pleasing one-time watch for those looking for a dark, crime drama but not those looking for comedic relief.

– Aryamaan Dholakia

Aryamaan’s Score – 69/100                                          Aman’s Score –